Listening To Kendrick's Past In The Present Out of nowhere, Kendrick Lamar dropped a new record this week, called untitled unmastered. Reviewer Kiana Fitzgerald says that listening to these demos "feels like we're playing catch-up."
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Listening To Kendrick's Past In The Present

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Listening To Kendrick's Past In The Present

Review

Music Reviews

Listening To Kendrick's Past In The Present

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Can we spend just a few more minutes on Kendrick Lamar, who is after all the reigning king of hip-hop? We just mentioned that he dropped a new album on his eager subjects late Thursday night. The album is called "Untitled Unmastered." True to that title, it features previously-unreleased raw material taken mostly from the sessions for his Grammy-winning opus "To Pimp A Butterfly." We thought you'd like to hear more about it, so Kiana Fitzgerald has this review.

(SOUNDBITE OF KENDRICK LAMAR SONG, "UNTITLED 03 - 05.28.2013.")

KIANA FITZGERALD, BYLINE: Officially deemed an album of demos, the raw tracks are nameless and featureless, identified only by the date they were presumably recorded. Up until now, Kendrick Lamar had only given a few hints that this music existed. He performed one song on "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon" just this January, another on the Grammys even more recently and another on "The Colbert Report" in 2014. "Untitled 03," the song from his "Colbert" appearance, was recorded more than a year and half before he performed it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNTITLED 03 - 05.28.2013.")

ANNA WISE: (Singing) What did the Asian say?

KENDRICK LAMAR: (Singing) A peace of mind, that's what the Asian said. I needed divine intervention was his religion. And I was surprised, him believing in Buddha, me believing in God. Asked him what are you doing? He said taking my time. Meditation is a must. It don't hurt if you try.

FITZGERALD: We're listening to Lamar's past in the present here. It feels like we're playing catch up. The project shows us demos within demos, with parts of one song appearing on another song sometimes recorded years apart. One of the more forward-thinking tracks is called "07." It feels and sounds like Lamar is shaking off flakes of the old him and growing a new skin by the minute.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNTITLED 07 - 2014-2016")

LAMAR: (Singing) You sound frantic. I hear panic in your voice. Just know the mechanics of making your choice and writing your bars. Before you poke out your chest, loosen your bra before you step out of line and dance with the star. I could never end a career if it never start.

FITZGERALD: "Untitled Unmastered" is a direct line into Kendrick Lamar's experimentation with using his voice as an instrument. Over the course of the album, we hear him strain and yell and whisper his way through his own evolution.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNTITLED 04 - 08.14.2014.")

SZA: (Singing) Don't second-guess yourself.

LAMAR: (Whispering) Don't tell them when you second guess yourself. I need you in the kitchen now, I forgot...

SZA: (Singing) Come on, give me some help. Hey...

FITZGERALD: "Untitled Unmastered" is both the fire and ashes from which "To Pimp A Butterfly rose. As I listen, the only thought running through my mind is what does the material Kendrick Lamar recorded yesterday sound like, and when will we be ready for it?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNTITLED 04 - 08.14.2014.")

LANCE SKIIIWALKER: (Singing) And I just want to...

MARTIN: Kiana Fitzgerald writes for NPR Music. She's based in New York City. Kendrick Lamar's "Untitled Unmastered" was just released on Thursday on all streaming platforms.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNTITLED 04 - 08.14.2014.")

LANCE SKIIIWALKER: (Singing) Straight up - eyes with my head...

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